There is no such thing as a typical foster carer.
Your individual qualities are what matter to us and what you can offer to a child or young person. Carers come from all walks of life, just like the children who need to be looked after. We're looking for people who are patient, flexible, understanding, determined and keen to learn. Foster carers and children in Cumbria have told us that qualities such as a sense of humour, wanting to make dreams come true, and, crucially, 'stickability' are important too.
Whatever your race, gender, sexuality, living arrangements, age and employment status we want to hear from you.
People often rule themselves out of fostering, but there are many myths about who can foster - see the myth buster:
You can. Legally, you must be over 21 to foster. But we don't have any upper age limits. Our only requirements are that you have enough energy and experience to take care of lively children! In fact, over 60 per cent of our foster carers are over 50 and six per cent are under 40.
You can. It doesn't matter what gender you are, both women and men make great foster carers. In fact, almost half of our foster carers are male. If you have energy, resilience and understanding, you can help to transform a child's life.
You can. Whether you are straight, gay or bisexual, we welcome applications from people who can bring different skills, knowledge and life experiences to the fostering role, regardless of their sexual orientation.
You can. You don't need to own your house to foster. As long as each child can have their own bedroom, you can foster. Some of our foster carers live in rented accommodation and some own their homes (if it is rented you will need permission from the landlord). What is more important is that you can provide enough space for children to sleep, play and do their homework.
You can. Although having your own children is a great way to gain the experience and knowledge you need to become a foster carer, you don't have to be a parent to foster. All we ask is that you've cared for children or young people through family contact, volunteering or employment. If you do have your own children living at home, we'll carefully match foster children or young people to the needs of your family and circumstances.
You can. We don't have any requirements about your marital status. Our foster carers may be single, married, in a civil partnership or living with a partner. Almost 25 per cent of our foster carers are single. Foster families come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes.
You can. Almost 60 per cent of our foster carers come from backgrounds not related to childcare. These range from taxi drivers to accountants to running a fish and chip shop! We'll offer you excellent training, development and support so you're prepared for the challenges and rewards of fostering. We just ask that you've got some experience caring for children or young people through your family or volunteering.
You can. We need all types of carers to reflect the types of children and young people who need a place to stay when they can't live with their birth families. We welcome applications from all people who can bring different skills, knowledge and life experiences to the fostering role, whatever their ethnicity.
Fostering doesn't necessarily require people to be at home full-time, different children will have different needs; the important thing is that you can arrange things to meet those needs. The fostering payments we provide may give you the flexibility to look at how you manage your working hours. Don't rule yourself out because you work.
You can. By fostering, you'll transform the lives of the most vulnerable and neglected children and young people. With over 600 children and young people in care in Cumbria, and the vast majority of them in foster homes, we need people like you.
Smoking will not necessarily rule you out from fostering. Consideration will be given to this and to all health- and lifestyle-related issues, and we will want to know of any specific health risks to you or to the children who may be placed in your care . According to national medical advice, children under five and those with particular medical conditions should not be placed in smoking households (including those who vape or use e-cigs). You will usually need to be smoke-free for at least six months before fostering from these groups can be considered.
Being disabled should not automatically exclude anyone from fostering and it is widely recognised that disabled people can often provide a very loving home for a child.
Disability is only one of the many issues that we will consider so don't rule yourself out before you have spoken to us.
Even if you believe that you might need some additional assistance to foster a young person, we may be able to provide this support.
If you have a criminal caution or conviction for offences against children or certain sexual offences against adults then you will not be able to foster but, with the exception of these specified offences, a criminal record will not necessarily rule you out. The key is to be totally honest in your application.